Children develop in their minds, their bodies and their feelings. They all develop at different rates depending upon their genetics, their personality and how they are parented. Your relationship with your child is important to help them to develop mentally, physically and emotionally into adulthood. A baby that experiences regular and sensitive care learns that they are worthy of that care.
The development process involves learning and mastering skills like sitting, walking, talking, skipping, and tying shoes. Children learn these skills, called developmental milestones, during predictable time periods.
Your child will receive five health and development reviews during their first 3 years. You can find out more about these on the NHS UK website.
This is the child's ability to learn and solve problems. For example, this includes a two-month-old baby learning to explore the environment with hands or eyes or a five-year-old learning how to do simple math problems.
Social and Emotional Development
This is the child's ability to interact with others, including helping themselves and self-control. Examples of this type of development would include: a six-week-old baby smiling, a ten-month-old baby waving bye-bye, or a five-year-old boy knowing how to take turns in games at school.
Speech and Language Development
This is the child's ability to both understand and use language. For example, this includes a 12-month-old baby saying his first words, a two-year-old naming parts of her body, or a five-year-old learning to say "feet" instead of "foots".
Fine motor skill development
This is the child's ability to use small muscles, specifically their hands and fingers, to pick up small objects, hold a spoon, turn pages in a book, or use a crayon to draw. Find out more on our Fine motor skills page.
Gross motor skill development
This is the child's ability to use large muscles. For example, a six-month-old baby learns how to sit up with some support, a 12-month-old baby learns to pull up to a stand holding onto furniture, and a five-year-old learns to skip. Find out more on our Gross motor skills page.
- Lay your baby down on their back so they can kick their legs.
- Pulling, pushing, grasping and playing with other people are great ways to practice different kinds of movements.
- Once your baby has started crawling, let them crawl around the floor, but make sure it's safe first – see the NHS UK baby safety guide.
- Playing outdoors helps your baby learn about their surroundings.
- You can take your baby swimming from a very young age – there's no need to wait until they've been vaccinated.
- Tummy time
- Rolling and sitting
- Crawling and walking
Learning to look after yourself is an essential life skill. Being able to wash, dress, eat and toilet independently are important milestones in a child's development.
Not only do you as a parent or carer spend the first few years feeding, cleaning and dressing your child but whilst doing so you should be teaching them to do these activities for themselves.